Ideas. Stories. Community.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

College Athletes In California Can Now Be Paid Under Fair Pay To Play Act


A bill making it legal for college athletes in California to get paid is now law. Governor Gavin Newsom has signed the Fair Pay To Play Act, giving college athletes the right to make money off their name, image and likeness. He did so over the objections of the NCAA, which oversees college sports. It sees the law as a threat to the traditional model of amateurism in college athletics. NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: It was a bill signing California-style. Governor Gavin Newsom sat in a barber's chair on the set of basketball superstar LeBron James' HBO show "The Shop." James has been an outspoken supporter of the bill. He and the other guests on the show watched as Newsom put pen to paper.


GAVIN NEWSOM: All right. Well, let's do it. Let's do it, man. All right.


GOLDMAN: Newsom explained why the Fair Pay To Play Act was important.


NEWSOM: It's going to change college sports for the better by having now the interest, finally, of the athletes on par with the interests of the institutions.

GOLDMAN: The law will allow California student athletes to earn money from endorsements, sponsorship deals and other activities related to their athletic skill. They'll be able to hire agents. The bill will not require colleges and universities to pay players, but schools - and certainly the NCAA - aren't happy about it. There's concern California schools will have an unfair advantage when recruiting athletes and that the law will push college sports toward professionalism.

Of course, many Division I college sports certainly appear professional, with palatial football stadiums, huge TV contracts and coaches making multi-million-dollar salaries. The NCAA wouldn't comment today about an earlier warning that California schools could be banned from NCAA championships because of the law. But Governor Newsome doesn't think that'll happen.

NEWSOM: They can't afford to do that, can't afford to lose the state of California. It's truly a nation state. And the economic consequences of it would be profound. No. 2, I don't think they have the legal right to do that.

GOLDMAN: The Pac 12 Conference, which includes four prominent California universities, says it's also disappointed with the new law. Among its criticisms, the law will have a negative impact on female athletes, which the original bill's author, California Senator Nancy Skinner, says is wrong - because, she says, women don't have the same opportunities as men to become professional athletes after college.

NANCY SKINNER: For women, this might be the only time they could make any money.

GOLDMAN: Several other states are considering similar laws to the Fair Pay To Play Act. California's law is scheduled to take effect in 2023. Tom Goldman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on